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Court grants injunction against new patent rules

Rules that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office says will help it to eliminate a backlog of applications will be put on ice for now, thanks to a preliminary injunction.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from enforcing new rules that would impose some roadblocks on patent applications.

The rules, scheduled to go into effect on Thursday, were designed to encourage greater specificity in patent applications and curb subsequent patents that are related to the original, a practice called "continuation applications."

Critics of the current rules say continuation applications have been abused, and that the system is overburdened, and have generally supported the Patent Office's move. For its part, the office says the changes would help to reduce a backlog of applications to be processed.

But U.S. District Judge James Cacheris granted GlaxoSmithKline, a drug manufacturer, a preliminary injunction on Wednesday against the new rules. Here's one writeup from the courtroom, and a second, both from patent attorneys.

The court's ruling comes at a tumultuous times for patent law. Last week, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, wrote a letter to the Patent Office that raised "concerns" about the rules. And the U.S. House of Representatives has approved a rewrite of the patent system--even though the Bush administration opposes the idea.